King's Cross Station transformed

19 March 2012 marked the start of a new chapter in the history of King’s Cross Station – the impressive new Western Concourse was finally opened in readiness for the 2012 London Olympics, a significant milestone in the £500 million redevelopment of the entire station by John McAslan + Partners. Lewis Cubitt’s extraordinary structure has been lovingly refurbished, an enormous conservation jigsaw puzzle, involving diplomatic consultation and negotiation with an endless stream of stakeholders, from English Heritage to the local community in Camden. By far the most ambitious new element is the 7,500 sq m concourse, three and a half times larger than the dismal ‘temporary’ shed it replaces, which first blighted the magnificent double-arched façade in 1972!

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McAslan’s extraordinary feat of imagination, in collaboration with ARUP, has been to rekindle the pioneering spirit of the great Victorians, imbuing the station once more with the grandeur and spectacle that it so richly deserves. The Western Concourse is a vast semi-circular atrium abutting the western façade of the station, but ingeniously, courtesy of 16 perimeter ‘tree-form’ supports, not imposing any weight whatsoever on the fragile Grade I listed structure. The crowning glory is the soaring 130-metre wide half dome forming the roof, the largest single-span station structure in Europe. The real ‘coup’ is the delicate tracery of the diagrid roof structure which provides the necessary strength without impeding the view of Cubitt’s classical façade beyond. Conceptually, both architect and engineer have created something unashamedly theatrical – a stupendous futuristic reinvention of robust Victorian civic architecture at its best.

Belford Communications has worked with the practice to promote the project internationally – a vast array of international design and transport titles have run extended features, John McAslan has been invited to lecture at conferences as far afield as New York, Doha and Mumbai and the practice’s endeavours were rightly crowned by winning the 2014 Queen’s Award for Enterprise, as well as the prestigious Europa Nostra Prize, the European Union’s Prize for the Best Cultural Heritage Project: a fitting tribute to an extraordinary achievement.

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